Lesotho, which has one of the world's
highest HIV prevalence rates, is targeting its large group of
migrant workers in a new effort to stop the spread of the
pandemic. Migrant workers are a special risk group when it comes
to taking the deadly virus back home to the family.
Last week, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and
Population Services International (PSI) launched a joint
programme aimed at reducing HIV vulnerability among migrants and
their families in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
The programme, which is funded by the Swedish international
development cooperation agency (Sida), aims to increase knowledge
of HIV/AIDS, access to and use of voluntary counselling and
testing services and correct and consistent condom usage.
Sporting tournaments, raining and outreach activities are to be
organised to promote HIV prevention and testing services.
According to IOM, the new programme is to target mineworkers and
their families, Lesotho Defence Force personnel, factory workers
and taxi drivers. Lesotho has a long history of migrating mine
workers, which have provided South Africa with a large and stable
quantity of cheap labour during the last century.
Like other neighbouring countries, Lesotho is heavily impacted by
HIV/AIDS, with an estimated HIV adult prevalence rate of 28.9
percent in 2004. Reflecting a general situation in Southern
Africa, the disease certainly has crossed into Lesotho from South
This is also the view of IOM. "The HIV epidemic is partly fuelled
by regional labour migration trends," the organisation says.
Fifteen percent of Lesotho's total labour force - or about 64,000
people - is employed in South African mines.
Lesotho also hosts an important number of migrant factory
workers, taxi drivers and members of the uniformed services.
These are mostly Basotho from rural parts of the Kingdom, working
in Maseru. Also they contribute to the spread of AIDS if they
have unprotected sex in the capital.
- Labour migration leaves both the workers and their spouses
vulnerable to HIV infection, commented Julia Hill-Mlati of IOM
Pretoria. "Being mobile in itself is not a risk factor for
HIV/AIDS. It is the situations encountered and the behaviours
that migrants might adopt during the migration process that
increase vulnerability to HIV/AIDS," she explains.